Posts tagged “death

One Memory

Today I’m not going to present you with one of my usual wacky, upbeat and off-the-wall posts. There are no pictures. No jokes. The cynicism is absent and all that is left are some words from a broken heart.

My uncle was an interesting dude. I mean that right down to calling him a dude. His long curly golden locks that fell down to the back of his neck and bronzed tan told the tale of a man of who loved to be outdoors. He loved it all. Fishing, hiking, biking, sailing. If it involved being outside, he was there. He was a man after my own heart because he would never go to a doctor unless it was extremely dire. Considering he kept himself in such great shape he never had a need to go. His philosophy was that doctors were like mechanics – they’ll find something wrong even if there’s nothing. Who needs that burden? Just live each day as if it were your last and enjoy yourself.

He was incredibly intelligent man. You wouldn’t guess it by looking at him but that man probably forgot more things than most people learn in their entire lives. He was a jack-of-all-trades when it came to knowledge – which made him a fierce conversationalist. He knew about every topic you could bring up. Not a know-it-all by any means but he knew just enough about everything to hold his own (and then some).

I don’t remember much my childhood but do I recall that he, my aunt and his daughter (from a previous marriage) would take me out to Montauk Point every so often to hang out at their cottage for a weekend or so. It was a blast for me. I was a city kid and getting to take the 2 hour drive out to the tip of Long Island was an adventure in my eyes. We would have barbeques, hang out on the beach and of course fish. That was my uncle’s thing right there. He had a little speed boat that he would take right out onto the Long Island Sound and fish right off the coast. That of course meant I had to go with him. I’ve never been a big fan of open water. That probably stems from an allergic reaction to not being able to swim. It’s like I tell Suzanne all the time “I swim well… underwater”.

He took me out for the first time in his boat despite my adamant protests against it. He guaranteed me I would have fun so I reluctantly went along. We went out far enough so that the hills along the coast looked like humps on the horizon – far beyond my comfort depth of knee-high water. He dropped anchor and we bobbed along like a drunken buoy. He pinned a worm to a hook and fastened it to a rod that he later handed to me. After an express course in the basics of fishing and how to use the rod we got on with the time-consuming process of waiting for a bite. As we sat out there I was amazed at how comfortable I was with the whole experience. Normally I’d be on edge dreading that the water splashing into the boat would sink us, but he calmly chatted away about anything and everything putting my mind at ease. My uncle never treated me like a kid. He always talked to me like an adult so even though I didn’t quite get some of his political or pop culture references I still appreciated the fact he conversed with me as an equal.

After an hour or so of no fish activity he spotted a bunch of gulls circling around closer to shore. We quickly packed up our rods and pulled up the anchor. To my shock he turns to me and says something that I’ll never forget…

“Okay. Swing us around to over there!”

I was stymied. I had never driven a car much less piloted a boat. He ripped away at the pull cord and got the motor buzzing. I was paralyzed with fear but eager to man the wheel. I hopped in the pilot’s seat and in a flash we were off. He instructed me how to cut through the waves as we made a bee line for the hot spot. I was in a zone. It was exhilarating to leave fear behind for a minute and just enjoy what I was doing. The water spraying on my face cooled the oppressive heat of the sun above and I was feeling on top of the world.

That was until he whispers to me, “You better slow down. There’s a reef somewhere around here. Can’t remember where exactly. Don’t want to hit that. It’ll rip us right open.”

I froze once again and quickly relinquished control of the boat to him. Thankfully we never got anywhere near the reef. Although we returned to shore later that day with no bounty I still had an awesome time. We all went out for ice cream and a movie later that night. Tucker: A Man and his Dream was playing. It was a terrible movie but I didn’t mind it because I was spending time with the family. My uncle, being the eclectic type of person he was, enjoyed it very much. It was yet another piece of ammunition for his vast arsenal of conversational topics.

Last Friday night, he suffered a hemorrhagic stroke that put him in a coma. His neurologist declared him brain dead from the amount of trauma he endured and that he was in a vegetative state. On Sunday, June 12th 2011 at 8:52pm I lost a person who I thought was invincible. It really pains me to write this part. I’m always criticized for not showing any emotions when it comes to death and tragedy but that’s just how I am. I have my moments, away from prying eyes, where I grieve in my own way. I’m no use to anyone if I’m an emotional wreck so I always have an unshakable, serene appearance whenever faced with moments like this – or at least I try to. I regret not speaking with him much in recent years. I remember that last phone conversation I had with him revolved around troubleshooting some computer issues.

I didn’t know him as well as I should have and I blame myself for that. I do cherish the time that we did spend together. He was one of only a few men I put on that upper tier alongside my father.

Goodbye Uncle. I’m sorry I never got a chance to say that to you. You will be missed.

Rest in peace.


I wanna tell you about the time I almost died….

Often I use movie quotes as the titles to my posts. It’s a daunting task because I not only try to relate the quote to something relevant in my post but the movie as well. Double jeopardy in a sense. This title came to me as I was reading my blend’s post about a rather traumatic time in her life. It made me ponder my own mortality for a moment. It’s not something I do often. I don’t lead a very death-defying lifestyle so I tend to not think about it that much. Quite frankly I feel that people who spend so much time fretting about death end up cutting their lives short by doing so. I live day-to-day and enjoy each one as though it were my last.

Her post did however make me reflect back to a time when I was confronted with my own mortality. The problem with that is you never see it coming and it happens when you least expect it. Many moons ago when I was a young lad well into his turbulent teen years, I had the aura of invincibility any youngster believes they have at that age. I hung out late, partied often and did many of the things that parents often warn you not to do. After all that’s the whole fun of being a teen right? Fighting authority and proving yourself to be infallible.

Anyway, after a night of boozing it up with the boys I found myself on the long train ride back home. Far be it for me to crash at my friend’s house, of which we were partying at, oh no no… that would be viewed as a sign of weakness and wussiness in the Cool Guy Kingdom so it was public transportation for me.  2am on the 7 train is an experience in itself. Often there were several people spread out across the car in varying states of a drunken stupor. Some laid down. Others would bob back and forth to the movements of the herky jerky train as though they were unconsciously dancing to an unheard beat. And then there’s me. Cool as a cucumber, listening to my Walkman and watching everyone through squinted Clint Eastwood eyes. I was a big dude… at least bigger than most of the deviants that prowled around in the wee morning hours so I had little to fear. In my mind you had to have pretty big balls to fuck with me – pardon my French.

After about a 45 minute ride home I made my way to my housing complex. My neighborhood was a rough one, but I had lived there all my life. I knew pretty much all the playas, thugs and dealers in the area. Heck I grew up with most of them.  I never really walked around with that sense of paranoia like most outsiders tend to do. Despite my block being a focal point for random gunfire on any given occasion, I had a kind of six sense about when and when not to be lurking around outside.

At least I did up until that night.

As I walked down a particularly shady pathway on the outskirts of my neighborhood rocking out to whatever it was that was playing on my earphones a shadow suddenly appeared out of my blind spot. I was so engrossed in the song I was listening to that I never saw the dude until he was right on me. From out of nowhere this rather haggard looking man jumped in front of me and pointed a silver .357 to my chest. I froze but somehow my ghetto survival instincts kicked in instantly because I managed to turn off my cassette player without too much movement and looked straight down at his feet – never making eye contact with him. He ordered me to give him all my cash and whatever else I had of value. I emptied my wallet very casually as if I was lending him money, never making any sudden movements and certainly never looking up at his face. I even somehow managed to converse with him because as I was handing him the few dollars I had on me I asked him if I could keep my ID because it’s a pain in the neck to get a replacement. He seemed puzzled but not agitated by my request and told me yes surprisingly. I then proceeded to give him my cheap watch and even offered my crappy Walkman. He took the watch but said no to the Walkman. For some bizarre reason I decided I might try to bargain with him. I told him it was a Sony Aiwa with SuperBass and I was positive he could get a good piece of change for it. Again, my nonchalant demeanor must have thrown him off because he said no again, but much less intensely. Kinda like “nahhh… that’s okay”.

After seeing there was not much else he could take from a poor housing project teenager, he sheathed his gun and told me to get out of there. Without hesitation I turned and walked, not ran, away. As I turned my back on him my heart was in my throat. I knew for certain that went far too well for a robbery and he was going to shoot me right in the back. I kept walking without looking back. I was tense as if bracing for an impact. After a couple hundred feet I was at the front door to my building. I reached for my keys and almost couldn’t unlock the door because my hand was trembling so much. When I finally got inside my house I went straight to my room. To say I was sober as a nun by that point would be an understatement. I sat on my bed and a chill ran down from the base of my skull to the tip of my spine that lasted for about a minute.

I didn’t feel invincible anymore. I just felt incredibly lucky.

It took me a long time to ever tell anyone that story to anyone. I think my father was the first one and that came nearly 10 years after it happened. I never reported to the police and never sought revenge or anything. It was a situation I foolishly put myself in due to my own negligence so I just let it be. I was just thankful that I survived.

What did I learn from all of this?

A few things. I learned to never be black on a Saturday night and go walking down a dark path. Nothing ever good happens in the movies so why did I think it’d be any different there? I also learned robbers don’t bargain well. That Walkman lasted me all through high school and 4 years after that. He missed out royally on a great deal. I learned parents are actually right – kids really are stupid. Most of all though I learned that I have awesome Jedi powers and can mindfuck people at will.

Seriously though, not many people have a moment in their life where the end is quite literally in front of you. It’s a feeling I wouldn’t wish on even my worst enemy – the feeling of absolute loss of control.  If I had it to do all over again, strangely enough, I wouldn’t change a thing. As traumatic as it was that night made me a better person.

[I’m playing Guess the Movie I Quoted from now on so guess away without Googling… even though I know you will]